Litchfield-South Roads Historic District
The Litchfield-South Roads Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The Litchfield-South Roads Historic District in Harwinton, Connecticut, runs in an east-west direction along the colonial Litchfield-Farmington trail, now Litchfield Road and Burlington Road (State Route 4). The Litchfield-South Roads Historic District is in the north central part of the town where religious and commercial activities are centered. At the intersection of Litchfield and South Roads, overlooked by the Harwinton Congregational Church, the district extends south, forming a T-shape.
The boundary of the Litchfield-South Roads Historic District encompasses the historic buildings and sites associated with the early growth of the center of town. The Litchfield-South Roads Historic District's boundary resembles that of local Harwinton Historic District created by the Town of Harwinton. Several non-contributing properties included in the local district are excluded, and historic houses east of the central intersection not included in the local district are added.
The Litchfield-South Roads Historic District displays a typical New England setting of buildings and spaces between the buildings. A prevalence of walls, trees, and fences visually integrate the external features. Views and vistas provide walls of space for the setting. The ambiance prevails without crowding or intrusions in historic low density.
Most of the buildings in the Litchfield-South Roads Historic District are residential, several serve a religious function, and there are four town-owned properties. Commercial activity is now conducted at the southeast corner of Burlington and South Roads. Generally, the buildings are domestic or modest in scale, set well back from the road and widely spaced from one another. They embody the distinguishing characteristics of several periods and styles of architecture.
While the community was settled in the second quarter of the 18th century, no identifiable houses from this era survive in the district (Bentley, p.180), although for 10 North Road and 33 South Road early sections, made scarcely recognizable by later alterations and additions, are thought to be present.
Several houses do date from the late 18th/early 19th century, the Congregational parsonage at 20 South Road, ca.1790, perhaps being the oldest. Six Federal houses exhibiting the common characteristic of four bays in gable end toward street were built at about the same time or soon thereafter. They are 12, 18, and 33 Burlington Road, 10 North Road. 2 South Road, and 100 Litchfield Road. 2 South Road is distinguished by its wide semi-elliptical fanlight which extends over the front door and over the side lights as well. In all but one of the four-bay houses the front door occupies the second bay, usually from the right. Two, 100 Litchfield Road and 12 Burlington Road, have the unusual feature of side elevations with five bays, the fenestration common for a front elevation when ridge line is parallel with the street. 10 North Road is the Litchfield-South Roads Historic District's historic inn.
Another Federal house at 8 Burlington Road (ca.1800) is different from the others because it is brick, one of the few masonry buildings in the Litchfield-South Roads Historic District.
The Greek Revival style is handsomely represented in the district, first by a large and well-proportioned doorway surround of wide pilasters and high entablature for the Colonial house at 77 Litchfield Road, 1818. The house is also distinctive because of its orientation east toward Lead Mine Brook rather than north toward the street.
Fully articulated examples reflecting the more boldly proportioned classicism of the Greek Revival style include 8 Litchfield Road, ca.1838, which is designed to be site-specific to its corner location by having two front elevations, both with columned porticos. 33 South Street, ca.1820, is transitional Federal/Greek Revival in the prostyle mode of pediment with semi-elliptical fanlight over three-bay front elevation. Its south wing, impressive with high-columned porch, is a Colonial Revival addition, ca.1930s. Other houses in the Greek Revival format are 19 Burlington Road and 25 Burlington Road.
The present 1915 Community Hall at 14 South Road, a single brick story on high granite ashlar foundation, replaces its ca.1840 predecessor. The original building had been constructed of frame on stone basement to serve jointly as the Town Hall and Episcopal Church. How closely the present building resembles the original is not clear, but the pointed-arch interlacing tracery in its over-scaled Palladian front window is the only Gothic Revival feature in the Litchfield-South Roads Historic District.
Mid-19th-century construction in the district was infrequent, but ca.1880 an Italianate style frame farmhouse in Greek-cross plan with high roofs was built at 32 Burlington Road. Another example of late 19th-century construction is the cottage at 51 South Road whose broad roof overhang and supporting C brackets make it distinctive in the district.
The first decade of the 20th century brought construction of the Neo-Classical Revival Hungerford Memorial Library. It is a one-story hipped-roof tan Roman-brick building with rough dressed granite dressing and bronze entablature. Granite steps lead up to a wide front entrance which is framed by granite Ionic columns between granite paneled piers. A cross gable in the hipped roof forms a pediment with deeply recessed tympanum over the entrance. The interior is finished in oak.
In the first quarter of the 20th century extensive dry granite stone walls were built from 39 Litchfield Road around the corner and along both sides of South Road. They are local split stone which is faced, sometimes only on the front, with quarried stone, and intermittently broken by pier gateways. In some instances there are two walls, one at the street front and a parallel one set back the depth of a building lot. The walls also run laterally through the properties. In all, some two miles of these walls were built and continue to stand.
Also early in the 20th century several houses were the subject of Colonial Revival alterations both on the interior, for example, 5 South Road and exterior, 33 South Road. Perhaps the largest and most skilled work in the Colonial Revival style was accomplished for the Congregational Church, rebuilt after a fire, in 1950-1953. Its front elevation is marked by a shallow pedimented pavilion, which is lower than the main roof. Three paneled double doors in the pavilion are surmounted by a Palladian window under an oculus in the pediment. The pavilion has quoins at its corners, as does the main block behind it. In the main elevation tall banks of small-pane windows divided into three parts flank the pavilion. Another Palladian window is in the first square stage of the steeple over the pavilion. The balustrade of this stage encircles an eight-sided arcaded belfry leading up to a tall steeple and weather vane finial, completing the traditional portico and spire.
In the same year that the rebuilding of the Congregational Church started, 1950, the Catholic Church established a mission at 78 Litchfield Road. The construction here took the form of a much simpler Colonial Revival design, followed in 1966 by a sanctuary in modern architecture using traditional massing and gable roofs and stained-glass, in profusion, in contemporary design. A community hall and school were part of the project, the whole representing the major 20th-century construction and the only contemporary design in the Litchfield-South Roads Historic District.
The Litchfield-South Roads Historic District has historical significance because the area it embraces has served as residential, religious, and commercial focus for the Town of Harwinton since it was settled early in the 18th century. It is the site of the first Congregational meetinghouse, 1745, and one of the town's earliest burying grounds, also established in the mid-18th century. The meetinghouse formed the nucleus around which a small cluster of buildings coalesced, with houses, Center Academy, store, and tavern.
The Litchfield-South Roads Historic District is significant architecturally because it contains well-preserved buildings which are good examples of historic architectural styles. The buildings date from the 18th century, when the district was settled at the central crossroads of the Town of Harwinton, through the mid-20th century, when well-designed Colonial Revival work was executed. The Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Colonial Revival styles are represented. The group of six Federal style houses with their four-bay gable ends facing the street is outstanding.
The district was settled early in the 18th century as part of the Town of Harwinton, which was formed in 1737 from land held by Hartford and Windsor, the name Harwinton being a contraction of the two. Harwinton owes its existence as a community to its location on the route connecting the older towns of Farmington to the east and Litchfield to the west. The district grew up around an important crossroads on the route, which was selected as the site of the 1745 meetinghouse. The meetinghouse was literally in the crossroads, occupying a site which is now a small triangular park. The second edifice was built a few feet to the north in 1808 where the present church stands.
Agriculture was the chief pursuit of the settlers, although a dozen sawmills and gristmills located on small streams and operated seasonally supported the subsistence economy (Bentley, p.113). In the absence of major waterpower resources, Harwinton did not develop industrially to produce marketable products during the 19th century. It has continued to be a small agricultural and residential community made up of buildings dating from the turn of the 19th century to the early 20th century (Bentley, p.180).
At the turn of the 20th century the district, in common with other communities in northwestern Connecticut, became popular as a place for second homes for people from metropolitan areas. Major impact on the South Road component of the district was made in the early 20th century by the activities of William McConway (1842-1925), a Pittsburgh industrialist and trustee of Carnegie Institute of Technology. In 1898 McConway purchased four contiguous properties totalling 77 acres on the west side of South Road that included the Creamery, 39 Litchfield Road, and 5, 21, 33, 47 and 51-53 South Road. The Creamery was converted to housing for McConway's staff, which was directed by a supervisor, Mr. De Michael, for whom the cottage at 51 South Road was built. McConway caused the Litchfield-South Roads Historic District's long stone walls to be constructed, thereby giving South Road the distinctive edges at the building lines on both sides of the street that it still maintains. The walls are unusual for their quarry-stone facing and for the second parallel wall, set back about the depth of a shallow building lot, on the east side of the road. McConway also moved the complex of four large barns from 5 South Road to 53 South Road.
In 1925 McConway sold his extensive holdings to Irving Holley for $12,000 (Mary Holley Doremus, February 23, 1996). Holley re-sold 33 South Road to Gertrude Lane, publisher of Women's Home Companion, and 5 South Road to her brother, Dr. Roger Dennett of New York City. Lane added the wing with two-story portico to her house, while Dennett engaged Richard Henry Dana, Jr., to make alterations to his. Lane moved Center Academy from her property across the street to 50 South Road for use as a weekend game house and library.
The barn at 65 South Road was converted to a studio/residence in 1927 by Caroline Peddle Bell (1869-1958), a Holley family connection and sculptor who studied with Augustus Saint Gaudens. She also drew the first sketches for 53 South Road, which, along with 61 South Road, was constructed by Holley family members.
One of the few masonry buildings in the Litchfield-South Roads Historic District was the benefaction of a local citizen who remembered his home town in his will. The Memorial Library was the testamentary gift of Harwinton native Theodore Alfred Hungerford (1838-1903), publisher of books and periodicals in Chicago and New York, who is interred in the library's basement. The land was given by his nephew and executor, Newman Hungerford. Cost of the building was $14,000.
In mid-20th century, a Roman Catholic mission was established at the northeast corner of Litchfield and Birge Park Roads. It has grown into the present complex of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, bringing modern architecture to the Litchfield-South Roads Historic District. The complex represents the largest single building campaign in the district's history.
The Litchfield-South Roads Historic District's building types of architectural significance, while primarily residential also include ecclesiastical and town-owned buildings. The range of architectural styles begins with the Colonial and runs through the Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Colonial Revival with many well-preserved examples. Several of the 20th-century works are designed by identified architects, two of whom are nationally known.
Among the Litchfield-South Roads Historic District's several components of architectural significance, one of the earliest and perhaps most significant is the group of six Federal style houses. Federal style houses having four bays in the gable end toward the street are somewhat unusual. The presence of six of six such houses in this small district is remarkable.
The similarity of features, size, mass, fenestration, and radial glazing of the six houses suggests they were the product of a single local builder, but there is no known documentation concerning their origin and construction, The extra detailing in both the window-caps and roof-line friezes of 33 Burlington Road set it off from the others in degree of ornamentation. Also, its door is in the far left bay instead of second bay, as in the others. These half-dozen houses contribute an important and unusual component to the architectural significance of the district.
The two fine Greek Revival houses, 8 Litchfield Road and 5 South Road, are boldly fashioned in the best tradition of the style and are now well-preserved. The fact that the design of 5 South Road is site-specific with two front elevations for its corner location demonstrates specific attention on the part of the builder. A historic photograph shows a two-story frame store in the side yard to the west, documenting early commercial activity at the crossroads. 5 South Road is also carefully detailed, and with its ells, apparently original judging by the foundations, was a large house for its time.
Next in sequence was a building with high stone basement and frame first floor constructed at 14 South Road in 1840 to be the town hall below and Episcopal Church above (Huntley, pp.60-62), an unusual combination. In the early 20th century, church membership dwindled to the vanishing point, the town assumed exclusive title to the property, and the upper floor was refurbished for town hall use in 1915, whereupon the building burned within days. It was re-built with brick first floor on the high stone basement. The oversized Palladian front window with its Gothic Revival pointed-arch interlacing tracery may be attributable to the former religious use, but in any event is the only suggestion of the Gothic Revival style in the Litchfield-South Roads Historic District.
The turn-of-the-20th-century Theodore Hungerford Memorial Library is typical of library buildings of the period, which often elected the Neo-Classical Revival style, here executed in thin brown Roman brick. The feature that is different from most is the copper architrave, frieze, and crown molding of the roof-line entablature. The building now functions as a museum.
The two important church buildings in the Litchfield-South Roads Historic District both date from mid-to-late 20th century, although the Congregational congregation has a much older history. After the 1949 burning of the Congregational Church, a campaign was put in hand to replicate the 1808 sanctuary that was lost, but in the event plans were scaled back, although the general appearance was followed and was well-executed.
The large complex of buildings of the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary houses a newer institution, but includes two contributing resources, the rectory and its barn, both of which date from the 19th century. The two major buildings, the church and school, which are non-contributing modern architecture, have strong visual impact in the district.
Regrettably, the identities of the 19th-century designers and builders of historic resources in the Litchfield-South Roads Historic District are not known. Their work is primarily vernacular interpretations of contemporary styles as was customary at the time. On the other hand, six of the 20th-century men are identified and two, Dana and Hornbostel, were nationally known, while the other four were local Connecticut architects.
Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (1879-1933), of New York City and Washington, Connecticut, is well-known for alterations to historic houses such as 5 South Road. He did similar work in the Calhoun-Ives Historic District, Washington. He also designed "Topsmead" for the Chase family nearby in Litchfield, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
Henry Hornbostel, FAIA (1867-1961), studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts before designing buildings at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. Carnegie was his common interest with William McConway, who arranged for him to do the 1915/1916 rebuilding of the Town Hall, now Community Hall, at 14 South Road. Hornbostel practiced in the firm of Palmer & Hornbostel which did the competition drawings for Davis & Brooks, the Hartford architects who were successful in securing the commission for Hartford's contemporary Municipal Building.
Little is known of the other four architects who worked in the district in the 20th century. Brother Catagan Bauman is of interest for his Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary design because it is an instance of a monk working in modern architecture. Belknap & Webb, designers of the Hungerford Memorial Library, are said to be "of Hartford" (Connell, p.3), but do not appear in contemporary Hartford city directories. Hunt & Johnson (53 South Road) practiced in Torrington or Litchfield (Peckham), while the office of Roland E. Sellew, architect of the Congregational Church, was in Deep River, Connecticut (Huntley, p.45).
Bentley, Raymond George. History of Harwinton. Winsted: Dowd Printing Company 1970.
Chipman, R. Manning. History of Harwinton. Hartford: William Wiley & Turner, 1858.
Dana, Richard H., Jr. Richard Henry Dana (1879-1933) Architect. New York: privately printed, 1965.
Doremus, Mary Holley. Interview, February 23, 1996.
Early Homes of New England. Arno Press, Inc., 1977, pp.94, 94.
La Rose, Father, minister of Church of Immaculate Heart of Mary. Conversation, February 19, 1996.
Mills, Lewis S. "Collis Potter Huntington" in The Lure of the Litchfield Hills 13 (December 1954) 4, pp.4-22.
Peckham, John E. Letter, March 15, 1996.
Report and Recommendation of the Historic District Study Committee of the Town of Harwinton, Connecticut, 1989.
Rybak, Michael D. "A Brief History of Lead Mine Brook Farm, Harwinton, Connecticut, 1772-1977," typescript, July 1977.
Shanley, Lloyd T., Jr., municipal historian and former first selectman. "Of Walls and Things," Harwinton Voice, March-April 1996, p.1.
David F. Ransom, consultant and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Litchfield-South Roads Historic District, Harwinton, CT, nomination document, 1996, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.